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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
For those unfamiliar with the benefits of greenways, I will share some. Greenways provide safe routes for city residents who, either by necessity or choice, walk on foot or ride a bicycle. These people include the old and young, black and white, middle class and lower (and sometimes upper), children and adults and the elderly. They also include the songbirds and turtles and rabbits (I should say that both the slow and fast travel on greenways, the feathered, furry, and leathery). Greenways are a habitat for our little forgotten friends, too.
Greenways provide a route that is a refuge from noisy, polluted city streets. Many places in our city, built only with cars in mind, are terrifyingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists (the 640 section of Broadway is just one example). Thus the need for greenways for all the many people and creatures for whom it’s necessary or simply desired to travel without an automobile.
If you haven’t looked out your car window lately, that’s a lot of folks and critters. And our numbers are becoming greater by the day. As gas prices rise and more become aware of global climate change, many people feel compelled to travel without gasoline. If you’ll take notice while driving through East, South, and North Knoxville, there are people of all kinds bravely navigating the streets and sidewalks with their own bodies. While this is good and grand, it is also rough.
Automobiles (since we have no emission standards in this state) are literally spewing pollution, sidewalks are broken, littered with shattered glass, and without shade—which can be fatal in global warming temperatures. The morale of Knoxville’s pedestrians is degraded more and more each day as we feel pushed to the edges and forgotten.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 14, city and county officials joined Legacy Parks in the official opening of 15 miles of recreational trail in South Knoxville. These trails—touted specifically as mountain biking trails by Legacy Parks—will be enjoyed mostly by wealthy, white males in a purely recreational activity that destroys forest habitat. This makes obvious the class divide in our fine city. It was nothing to secure the funding and official support for this project, while getting one mere mile added to our greenways is framed as next to impossible. I have been holding out the hope for years that our greenways would be extended, connected, and improved. Still, no progress has been made on the ground. Curiously, the Knoxville Greenways Coalition was one of three key donors to the 15 miles of mountain biking trails. But this is not a greenway. Like our local government, it is not by or for the people. It is by and for a wealthy elite.
The only side of town with direct, safe, pleasant access to downtown via a greenway is the West side. While the richest part of Knoxville gets to have its greenway and build its recreational trails, the other sides, the ones that so desperately need safe routes for travel, are neglected. I am starting to feel now, as many do, that the city of Knoxville is blatantly ignoring the needs of its people.